Meet Nathan Aguilera, a flashpacker, foodie, photographer, and travel blogger. Nathan runs the very popular Foodie Flashpacker website that helps people all over the world find great restaurants and discover new dishes. In this episode, we chat about how the pandemic has affected travel blogs, Nathan’s favorite cuisines, how he makes money from his blog, how much influencers get paid, how he simplified his business, and the pros and cons of monetizing a blog with ads.
📍 On how the blog managed during the pandemic
“It [the pandemic] was really rough, especially when you have a travel website and no one is allowed to travel. I considered starting other things but right now the blog is the only business I have going on”
📍 Travel blogger or food blogger?
“I call it a food-focussed travel blog. When people say ‘food blogging’, what they’re thinking of is recipe blogs. My site is about what to eat and where to find it around the world”
📍 On making money from a food-focused travel blog
“If you want to know specifically how I make money, it’s largely advertising and affiliates. Advertising revenue is my number one, affiliates are my number two. I have a fairly large Instagram following and I used to make quite good money getting paid for press trips and selling advertising spots on my Instagram. Before my advertising kicked off, I was doing mostly paid press trips.”
📍 On other revenue streams
The best-paid press trips are normally in the United States but I don’t think I’ve made money off paid press trips in probably six months. And it used to be my number one source of income, so it can change. Other people [travel bloggers] are developing products, others are leading tours. People are selling t-shirts.”
📍 On influencer daily pay rates
“I got a contract sent to me by mistake for a press trip that was for another influencer and I saw what they were getting paid. They were charging $5,000 per day.
I used to have a rule. I will never let someone’s PR company tell me they don’t have a budget. If they can afford a PR company, they can afford to pay influencers. And if a travel business has its PR company tell me they don’t have a budget, I don’t think the business is at a point where they need a PR company.”
📍 On unpaid press trips
“For a long time, I would flat refuse to take any unpaid press trips. I was very much against it, but now I’ve worked a lot on my passive income streams. And now that I have passive income streams in place, I would actually consider taking some unpaid press trips if they were to a dream destination.
if someone offered me Bora Bora and they don’t have a budget, but they’re going to give me flights, hotels, and tours for free, at this point I would jump on it. Because I do have enough things going in the background. I can pursue some of these things that may not make me as much money, butI would just really like to do regardless.”
📍 On website WordPress themes
“I use Trellis. My site’s the ugliest it’s ever been but it’s built for speed and ad revenue. I used to spend a lot of time and money investment on homepages and design and colors. But my site wasn’t running fast. And I also have a theory. I don’t think a lot of people see my homepage.
My content is all SEO-driven. And so people were looking for where or what to eat in a certain destination. They hit my website and they’re going to find a page that loads super fast. I’m no longer as concerned about having a gorgeous site with frills and video and everything else. I want it to be fast and functional and I want people to get on there and be able to find what they’re looking for quickly and easily.”
📍 On blog display ads and user experience
“It’s a bit annoying [running video ads] but at the same time, you know, it’s a balance between wanting to have a good user experience and keeping people on your site as this is free content for them. This isn’t a subscription site. And it costs me to produce this free content. So there has to be a trade-off. I don’t want overly diminished user experience, but at this point, it’s just gotten to the point where ads and videos are something we’re getting used to seeing.
Ads and videos are what allow me to keep producing this content and put it out for free. Ads and videos are how I put food on the table. Ads and videos are how I keep a roof over my head.
There has to be a trade-off where people get this free content, and nothing is ever really free. I could either put you behind a paywall and you can pay X amount of dollars per month to visit the site ad-free. Or you’re going to have to scroll past some ads and possibly close out a video.”
📍 On starting a travel blog today
“I don’t know that I would tell a lot of people to start a travel blog. I think I would advise people to do a nice site or a recipe site or something like that before I would do a travel blog. I don’t know what kind of breakout voice or what someone would have to hit the market with today to captivate a large audience. ‘Food travel’ is a niche, but these days you need to be a “paleo blogger” or a gluten-free or celiac niche.
Maybe you’re not going to have a super big audience, but maybe you can have an engaged audience. A super-tight niche helps build up a lot of trust and authority with a smaller engaged audience.”
📍 On simplifying the business
“I kind of divorced myself from a lot of social media although I’m fairly active on Instagram stories. I looked at what is making me money, and as a result, I had to let go of the press trips. I had to quit chasing all the money from social media and just tighten up what is actually working and remove myself from the things that weren’t being as successful. I was trying to chase eight different things at once. “
📍 Favorite cuisines?
“Italian, Mexican, and Vietnamese. Thai food is still very amazing, but now Vietnamese food is the one that is a little bit more exotic to me that I haven’t had as much exposure to. In the month that I was in Vietnam, I don’t even know what most of the dishes were.
I’m half Mexican and I’ve been based in Mexico, so I’m very biased. I think Mexican food is one of the greatest cuisines in the world. Not Tex-Mex.
And Italian. Well, it’s Italian food!”
📍 On destinations that should be more popular
“I wish that the Azores islands in Portugal would get more famous. I think that they are gorgeous and have good food. good wine, amazing nature. Not super popular yet. I think there’s one island that a cruise ship goes to, but the rest of them are rather unexplored. It’s only a four-hour flight from the east coast of the United States. So it’s not even that far.”
Links & Resources
- Sofia, Bulgaria – Read Nathan’s guide to where to eat in the city
- Varna, Bulgaria
- Tbilisi, Georgia
- Bora Bora
- Azores, Portugal
- Madeira, Portugal
Nathan’s Top 3 Bulgarian dishes:
- Tarator – Bulgarian Cold Cucumber Soup
- Shopska salad
- Bulgarian Banitsa
- Mediavine Trellis – a fast WordPress theme for food and travel blogs.
- Grow.me – Mediavine’s user engagement suite
- Aweber – email marketing software
- A flashpacker definition
- A Digital Nomad definition
- Reddit – One of the internet’s most visited websites. Find niche forum discussions on every topic imaginable.
- WordPress themes for Travel blogs
- Travel writing & SEO – an opinion piece
- How to start a travel blog